Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, sent the following message to University staff and students today (13 November 2020):
"Dear students and colleagues,
We are now seeing clear signs of success in the struggle against COVID-19. Our tenacity is yielding results in the effort to suppress the epidemic here in Iceland and we have heard long-awaited news about a vaccine from abroad, which sounds extremely promising. Development of this vaccine is testament to the importance of education, scientific research and solidarity. When the valuable knowledge of many people is brought together in research, it can lead to discoveries that benefit the whole of humankind.
This week we finished revising the timetable for final exams in the autumn semester. You can access the final version in Ugla, dear students. It has become clear that opinions are divided on the arrangements, but when revising the exam timetable we followed the instructions of the health authorities to the letter. We also endeavoured to take into consideration the perspectives of schools and students where possible.
The main focus of the University has been and will always be to guarantee high standards in assessment and equality between students. For this reason, competitive exams and other important exams will be held on the University campus, cf. the regulation from the health authorities. Assessment for the huge majority of courses, however, will conclude with something other than an on-campus exam this December, e.g. take-home exams, interim exams or assignments.
Students have been asking various questions about the arrangements for final exams and we have tried to answer them on the University's COVID-19 web page. I encourage you all to read over the answers there and, if necessary, contact your school or faculty for further information.
Yesterday, the University of Iceland launched an innovation accelerator under the banner of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) in collaboration with the US government to support women here in innovation. I wholeheartedly urge women to check out the accelerator and, if you are interested, apply to take part. It was also announced that the University was among the companies and institutions to receive the Equality Scales recognition from the Association of Women Business Leaders in Iceland this year. Equality Scales is a project by the Association of Women Business Leaders, aiming to achieve a situation where at least 40% of management positions in Icelandic companies are held by women by 2027.
This award from the Association of Women Business Leaders is a gratifying testament to the University's position. Equality is a guiding principle in everything we do and the basis of the diversity at the University. The University of Iceland participates responsibly in a society that promotes equality, wellbeing and diversity; equality is one of the three core values in the University's current strategy. Work is now underway on shaping a new strategy, in close consultation with the entire University community. Indeed, the University Forum that began today is devoted to the new strategy. Of course, equality will be one of the central tenets of our work on the new strategy.
We have applied online teaching technology this semester, due to the pandemic, but we have also continued limited on-campus learning in accordance with the changing recommendations of the health authorities. In this way, we have succeeded in staying operational despite major restrictions. It is clear that we will need to continue in the same vein when we organise teaching for the spring semester 2021. All teaching will be based online but some limited on-campus learning will hopefully continue to be permitted, e.g. in the case of practical teaching. Schools and faculties will announce more detailed plans for teaching in the spring semester over the next few days and weeks.
Online technology has served us well at the University in many areas other than teaching. For example, we were able to stream a University Concert this week, which went extremely well and proved very popular. It is not surprising that music speaks to us in these times – Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones once said that music is a language that doesn't speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions.
Let's recognise our emotions, but at the same time remain rational and be wary of anger. Expressing anger can be gratifying in the moment, but the regret can last a long time. Let's take care of ourselves, but also consider the wellbeing of everyone else in our society. Let's be considerate and continue to follow the rules on infection control which have brought us over peaks that sometimes seemed insurmountable.
Let's enjoy the weekend as best we can.
Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector"